In a re-match of last year’s NBA D-League Finals, the Santa Cruz Warriors got their revenge on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants after the Mad Ants swept them the year before. The Warriors defeated the Mad Ants 2-0 in the best-of-three Finals series. The entire series was a shootout between the two best offensive teams in the D-League this season, with the stars on each team performing well at certain times.
In Game 1, the Mad Ants dominated the first half, and they lead by as many as 22 points in the first quarter. The major problem for the Mad Ants was defense. They allowed the Warriors to come back by letting up on the Warriors’ Elliot Williams and Mychel Thompson. Williams had 31 points on 12 for 23 shooting with 8 assists, and Thompson had 24 points on 7 of 16 shooting and five three pointers. Their big men, Odnjen Kuzmic and Taylor Griffin, also played relatively well with 18 points and 17 points respectively. Kuzmic also lead the team in rebounds with 13.
Offensively, the Mad Ants in Game 1 were keeping up. Ramon Harris made eight three pointers out of 13 attempts, and finished the night with 30 points. Jordan Crawford struggled at times, shooting 8 for 25, but still managed to score 24 points and get 11 assists. C.J. Fair had a quiet game by his standards, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Trey McKinney-Jones showed up however, scoring 17 points on 70 percent shooting as well as making two three pointers. Matt Bouldin also made five of his eight three pointers to keep pace with the Warriors. Unfortunately, the Warriors had a answer for every shot the Mad Ants took, and they won the first round of the shootout 119-115.
As for Game 2, the Mad Ants struggled mightily on offense, and the Warriors took advantage of that. The Mad Ants shot 38 percent from the field as a team, opposed to the Warriors’ 44 percent. The Warriors also shot 43 percent from beyond the arc, a specialty of theirs. One winning component that was not expected from the Warriors was rebounding. Kuzmic, Griffin, and Darington Hobson each grabbed rebounds in the double digits, and the team out-rebounded the Mad Ants by 10.
Another component that benefited Santa Cruz was the return of James Michael McAdoo from the Golden State Warriors. He had 21 points and seven rebounds, and it was obvious that the Mad Ants had not planned for him. The dynamic Elliot Williams played very well again scoring 23 points, and Hobson scored the second most points with 22. Aaron Craft did not shoot well at all, going 1 for 10, but still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists.
Jordan Crawford and C.J. Fair had quite a tough game. They ended up with 17 points and 16 points, but combined for 11 for 32 from the field. No player on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants roster scored more than 20 points, and this was one of Crawford’s worst games since he was signed. The Mad Ants have typically struggled on the road, but have always found a way to come out on top, until now.
Elliot Williams won the Finals MVP award and thanked his teammates, coaches, and the fans of Santa Cruz. He hopes to break out of the stigma of a “combo guard” and be a point guard at the highest level someday.
By Joshua Hamer